Radio Days Blu Ray

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Woody Allen's gentlest and most unassuming movie, Radio Days isn't so much a story as a series of anecdotes loosely linked together by a voice-over spoken by the director. The film is strongly autobiographical in tone, presenting the memories of a young lad Joe (clearly a stand-in for Allen himself) growing up in a working-class Jewish family in the seafront Brooklyn suburb of Rockaway during the late 1930s and early 40s. In this pre-TV era the radio is ubiquitous, a constant accompaniment churning out quiz shows, soap operas, dance music, news flashes and Joe's favourite,... the exploits of the Masked Avenger. Given Allen's well-publicised gallery of neuroses, you might expect childhood traumas. But no, everything here is rose-tinted and even the outbreak of war makes little impact on the easygoing, protective tenor of family life. Now and then Allen counterpoints his family album with the doings of the radio folk themselves (blink, and you'll miss a young William H Macy in the studio scene when the news of Pearl Harbour comes through). The rise to fame of Sally (Mia Farrow), a former night-club cigarette girl turned crooner, is the nearest the film comes to a coherent storyline. But most of the time Allen is content to coast on a flow of easy nostalgia, poking affectionate fun at the broadcasting conventions of the period and basking in the mildly rueful Jewish humour and small domestic crises of Joe's extended family. There aren't even any of his snappy one-liners, and the humour is kept low-key, raising at most an indulgent smile. A touch of Allen's usual acerbity wouldn't have come amiss. But for anyone who shares these memories, Radio Days will surely be a delight. On the DVD: Not much besides the theatrical trailer, scene menu and a choice of languages. The screen's the full original ratio, but nothing seems to have been done to enhance the soundtrack, and the dialogue's not always clear. A boost in volume may help.--Philip Kemp [show more]

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20 February 2017
Blu Ray 
Arrow Academy 
85 minutes 
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Woody Allen writes and directs this comedy consisting of a series of vignettes depicting life in 1940s New York, a time of recession in which the radio played an important role in people's lives. Focusing on one chaotic working class family in Queens, the film contrasts their struggles with the lives of the radio stars who live and work in the glitz and glamour of Manhattan.

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